NHL Three Stars from Saturday
1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
If any team must want the Penguins to trade Kris Letang — preferably out of their division — it might be the New York Islanders.
Back on Feb. 20, Letang began his current point streak by scoring two goals vs. the Islanders. Remarkably, Letang was even more productive against the Islanders on Saturday. The talented-if-often-criticized defenseman scored two goals (scroll for some overtime heroics) plus an assist.
The blueliner extended his point streak to four games (4G, 3A). Letang’s now at four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 18 games.
While you can’t gauge Letang or any defenseman’s value on offense alone, it’s hard to believe that he’s really one of the Penguins’ biggest problems. You’d think trading Letang would really only make sense if the Penguins planned on blowing things up.
(Again, the Islanders might be nudging them on this one. Maybe to the point where they’re overplaying their hand.)
2. Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs
For fans of star vs. star action, it must have been disappointing that an injury kept Auston Matthews from facing Connor McDavid on Saturday. One might assume that such an omission might give the Oilers a pretty big advantage in the game itself.
Impressively, the Maple Leafs banded together to shut down McDavid, handling him in one of the worst games number 97’s endured — from an individual standpoint — in some time.
Only other time Connor McDavid has been minus-3 with no points and fewer than 2 shots? His fourth NHL game ever: Oct. 15, 2015. (He should be a terror on Monday.)
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) February 28, 2021
For all of the Oilers’ remaining flaws, they’ve shown they can win here and there even when McDavid’s ice-cold.
Campbell & Co. made sure that didn’t happen on Saturday, however. In his first game back since Jan. 24, Campbell pitched a 30-save shutout. He’s now 3-0-0 on the season, and if he can stay healthy, might have an outside chance to push Frederik Andersen for starts. (The Maple Leafs maybe leaned too heavily on Andersen over the years, and it felt like it really started to show beginning in 2019-20.)
Either way, this is feel-good stuff for the 11th pick of the 2010 NHL Draft. (If you forgot Campbell was a first-rounder … well, that’s pretty understandable.)
3. Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames
Goodness, the Flames really needed this one after being embarrassed by the Senators on Friday.
Backlund and the Flames responded in a big way to that Senators loss. In Backlund’s case, he scored a goal and two assists. Both of his assists were of the primary variety, with one even coming shorthanded.
His overall stat line, and the Flames winning, helped Backlund get the edge over the likes of Timo Meier (two goals, one assist in a losing effort that nonetheless made Jordan Binnington very mad). Backlund scored those three points, generated a +4 rating, four shots on goal, and even went 13-7 on faceoffs to complete one of the better overall performances from Saturday in the NHL.
Highlights of the night: OT winners from Letang, Dumba
Talented defensemen supplied some impressive, timely goals on Saturday in the NHL.
Most timely: Matt Dumba. The Wild defenseman made a great move to bury an OT-winner to beat the buzzer (and the Kings).
While Dumba takes the cake for buzzer-beating and moves, Kris Letang iced his three stars of Saturday in the NHL nod with a great bit of deception against Semyon Varlamov. Pretty nifty:
A curious moment from Saturday
If you want a lowlight — or, let’s be honest, actually a comedy highlight — of Saturday in the NHL, enjoy Jordan Binnington losing his noodle. (But not losing his noodle enough to engage in an ill-advised fight with Devan Dubnyk.)
The Coyotes didn’t have a good time against the Avalanche, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson was part of the problem.
But for all of the times lacrosse-style skills translate to goals, what about clearing your zone? Granted, it netted an icing call, but still …
Saturday’s NHL scores
Capitals 5, Devils 2
Flames 6, Senators 3
Flyers 3, Sabres 0
Predators 2, Blue Jackets 1
Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (OT)
Lightning 5, Stars 0
Hurricanes 4, Panthers 3 (SO)
Maple Leafs 4, Oilers 0
Red Wings 5, Blackhawks 3
Wild 4, Kings 3 (OT)
Avalanche 6, Coyotes 2
Golden Knights 3, Ducks 2 (OT)
Jets 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Blues 7, Sharks 6
More NHL News
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
The Buzzer: Overtime heroics and more from Saturday in the NHL originally appeared on NBCSports.com